Q. What can Congress do to help communities fight substance abuse?
A. Congress can support community-based anti-drug coalitions like those associated with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. It's a national advocacy and coalition training group representing grass-roots anti-drug coalitions. The National Community Anti-Drug Coalition Institute, which Congress created in 2001, is run by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. The institute trains community-based anti-drug coalitions to assess and fight their own community's specific substance abuse problems. All together, the coalitions group represents more than 5,000 community anti-drug coalitions nationwide, several of which are in Iowa.
Q. What is the impact of community anti-drug coalitions in Iowa?
A. Every three years, the state-sponsored Iowa Youth Survey assesses alcohol, tobacco and drug use by 6th, 8th, and 11th grade students. The most recent survey found a 28 percent decrease in the number of Linn County 11th graders who reported using marijuana; a decrease of nearly 40 percent of Van Buren County 11th graders who admitted drinking alcohol on a regular basis; and less than half as many Clinton County 11th graders reporting the use of prescription drugs to get high from the previous survey. The data shows that communities with active anti-drug coalitions are making great strides in the fight against substance abuse.
Despite the good news, we can't let our guard down. There are new drugs on the streets all the time. Drug dealers are always working to get a new generation of kids hooked on drugs. However, research has shown time after time that if a person remains drug-free until they turn age 20, they're highly unlikely to ever try or become addicted to drugs. Community-based groups have some of the best opportunities to keep the young people in their areas off drugs. The federal government may not know which drugs are impacting Algona, but the Kossuth Connections Coalition does. And that's just one of the many effective community anti-drug coalitions in Iowa.
I met with members of many of Iowa's community coalitions while they were in Washington, D.C., in February. These meetings routinely reinforce my view that one of the best tools we have to fight substance abuse is these groups' working to identify, prevent and eradicate the sources of abuse close to home, at the grass roots. In communities that receive Drug Free Communities program funding from the federal government, the number of middle and high school students who use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana decreases significantly. According to the White House's most recent evaluation of this grant program, because of community anti-drug coalitions: 181,000 youth did not use alcohol; 200,000 did not use tobacco; and 115,000 did not use marijuana in 2009, nationwide, who otherwise would have.
Q. What else have you done to fight substance abuse?
A. The grant program that supports some community anti-drug coalitions was created in the Drug Free Communities Act, which I introduced and got passed in 1997. Since that time I have worked to improve the program and make it stronger. I also founded the Iowa-wide community-based anti-drug coalition that is now known as Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa Face it Together, in order to support community-based efforts to combat illegal drugs.
In the U.S. Senate, I serve as the Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary and the Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. I led the effort to pass the Combat Meth Act in 2005. It limits the amount of meth precursor drugs, such as pseudoephedrine, that a customer can buy and requires pharmacies to keep written or electronic logbooks recording each purchase of the drugs. To supplement the Combat Meth Act, Senator Diane Feinstein of California and I cosponsored clarifying legislation in 2009. It requires distributors of meth precursor chemicals to certify that they distribute products only to retailers that comply with the 2005 law. I also cosponsored the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act, which became law in 2008. It allows states to develop uniform reporting, via the use of electronic tracking systems for the sale of meth precursor chemicals. This is information law enforcement officials can use to help stop the manufacture of meth.
Representatives from community anti-drug coalitions in Iowa met with Senator Grassley while in Washington, D.C., in February to share their accomplishments and concerns for the coming year. This picture was taken in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.